Children's Literature - Marilyn CourtotSet in Israel, the story follows a family as it collects the items needed to set up the Sukkah to celebrate Sukkot. They use wood to provide the structural supports and curtains to make the walls. Leafy branches are used to create the roof, and the kids prepare illustrations to hang on the walls. This account of the Jewish holiday emphasizes the acquisition of the "four species"—that is, the four plants that are held together and waved around during every morning of Sukkot. The species include the lulav (branch from a date palm) bound with aravot (branches from a willow tree), hadas (myrtle) and etrog (a fruit that resembles a lemon). While these items can be bought in a market, the family in this story decides to try and find them in the wild near the city of Tezfat. They take hikes and succeed in finding three of the species, and we get to enjoy seeing their picnic and adventures on these outings. The only item that they cannot find is the etrog. Luckily, the young girl and her family run into one of her school friends, who has an etrog tree in her yard. What luck! Now, they can pick one of the fruits to complete their treasure hunt for all four of the species. The backmatter explains more about the species mentioned and also discusses the meaning and purpose of Sukkot. The story is filled with photographs of a real family on a real holiday adventure—one that readers might want to emulate, but may find difficult due to the unavailability of the plant material in their locale. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
School Library JournalPreS-Gr 2—An Israeli girl goes on a Sukkot "treasure hunt" with her parents to find the four items (date palm, willow, myrtle, and etrog fruit) used to celebrate the harvest holiday. They find the first three plants during a hike in the hills, and the last is offered by a friend who has an etrog tree in his courtyard. Each step of the hunt is illustrated by sun-dappled photographs of the charming child and her laid-back parents. Books on the Jewish celebration of Sukkot are few and far between, and this one is unique in its focus. An endnote describes the various plants the family sees and mentions that the Torah commands Jews to "take the branches and fruit of beautiful trees and rejoice" at harvest time. However, little explanation is offered on the symbolism and function of the plants in the observance. Readers unfamiliar with Sukkot may be mystified by the fuss made over them, and by the very brief mention of the sukkah built by the family. The book is well suited to observant audiences and will be a boon to Jewish educational institutions, but seems to lack the bridging material to bring other readers onboard.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
Kirkus ReviewsClear, colorful photographs follow a young family's quest to find all the "four species" (from the Hebrew arba minim) used to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, the harvest holiday observed with the symbolic use of the branches of a palm, willow and myrtle tree and the Middle Eastern citrus fruit etrog. Because these are plants that naturally grow in Israel, the family takes a hike near their home in Tzefat to see if they can harvest them rather than buy them at the market. The spirit of the holiday's significance is captured throughout the family's outing, which is treated as a treasure hunt and which successfully culminates in a meal in the family's Sukkah, the outside hut families create for the week-long celebration. Reading daughter Aravah's first-person account, children will identify with the fun and wonder of her discoveries as her parents guide and instruct each step of the search. A realistic and eco-friendly perspective of both simple Israeli life and the holiday. Holiday explanation and Fun Facts included. (Picture book. 4-6)
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Who knows what the Jewish festival of Sukkot is? If you said that it is a harvest celebration, you would be right, but it is more. Literally the "Festival of Booths," it recalls the temporary huts that the Jewish people built as they wandered in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. Each family of Jews erects a sukkah, and every morning of Sukkot they wave the "four species" up, down, and around. Author Allison Ofanansky follows a young girl, her Abba (father) and Ima (mom), who live in the village of Tzefat, as they go on a scavenger hunt in the surrounding countryside to find the lulav or branch from a date palm, aravot or branches from a willow tree, hadas or nice-smelling myrtle, and etrog or citrus fruit that looks like a big lemon. Will they be able to obtain them all? Along the way, the family also notices a hyrax, a bay tree, a grapevine, a pomegranate tree, a wild orange tree, and an eagle. The visually stunning photographs by Eliyahu Alpern grace this text by illustrating both the plants and animals mentioned and the search by the family for what they need. In the back, there are two pages of "fun facts" about many of the species mentioned in the book as well as more information concerning Sukkot. For those who have read about the Festival of the Booths in the Scriptures, it is very interesting to see how it is observed by Jewish people today. The author, who lives in the village of Kaditah, near the mystical city of Tzefat, has written another children's book, Harvest of Light, also published by Kar-Ben.